And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor?—Jeremiah 2.18.

[The Humble Proposals of Mr. Alexander Shields to the Remanent Members of the General Assembly.]
 
THE HUMBLE PROPOSALS
of
Mr. Alexander Shields
to the
Remanent Members of the General Assembly
Now convened at Edinburgh, October 1690.
To the Moderator and remanent Members of the General Assembly, now convened at Edinburgh, October 1690, The humble Proposals of Mr. Alexander Shields, &c.
IF our eye could suitably affect our hearts this day, Right Reverend, we might find much matter, both of rejoicing and mourning, in the wonderful commencement and advancement of this work of reformation. We are called to rejoice with thanksgiving for the mercy of God manifested and magnified in the progress of this work hitherto; that the Lord hath been pleased in sovereign mercy to prevent and surprize us with such a reviving in our bondage, by the repression of tyranny, suppression of popery, and depression of prelacy. When the doctrine of this church is asserted, and the confession of faith formerly received, is read, voted, approven, and established by parliament. The worship and ordinances of Christ are administered in great purity, plenty and peace: The government of Christ’s institution, is at length restored to what it was anno 1592. And the discipline retrieved to such a fond of freedom, that all ecclesiastic courts may without restraint, or being accountable to any exotic usurped power in the magistrate, assert all the authority, and exercise the power, wherewith Christ hath entrusted them. Which power, if duly and diligently improved, and put in execution, may, through the blessing of God, contribute very much to the reducing of order, and the redress of many disorders in this church. And now the causes of our disunion and division, in times of defection, being in a great measure removed, when erastian usurpations are abrogated, the church’s intrinsic power redintegrated, and the corruptions introduced by compliance, so far abdicated and antiquated, that they are not, in the constitution of the church, and do not continue to be the scandal and snare of the times; we hope and expect a remedy may be found for our breaches and divisions, that we thought incurable, and union and communion in the Lord may be attained. We are no less obliged to mourn, when we observe this house of the Lord so unlike the former, wanting many things the former had, and pestered with many things the former wanted. They that have seen our former reformation in its integrity, before the late deformation, can hardly refrain from weeping at the sight of the sad disproportion between this and the former. In the former, {563} as the constitution was calculate in the nearest conformity to the divine pattern; so the builders had always a care to pull down what was to be demolished, before they established what was to stand; and to purge away the rubbish from the foundation, before they promoted the superstructure: Accordingly, when prelacy was reintroduced at several times, the first thing they did, when they recovered their power, was always to exert it, in condemnation of that corruption, and of these assemblies and meetings that promoved, abetted, favoured, or complied. And when the erastian supremacy began to encroach upon the church’s liberties, and to bring the ministry into bondage, they did not think it enough to wrestle against it, by personal witnessings: but, by the good hand of God upon their endeavours, never ceased until it was condemned by acts of assembly. They proceeded also with great earnestness and vigilance, to purge the church of corrupt and scandalous ministers. But now, after all the rubbish and filth, brought into the house of God, by invasions and usurpations of the enemies, and defections of friends, when now opportunity and capacity is given to rebuild and beautify the house of the Lord, and to repair the desolations thereof, the present building is so far advanced, without pulling down and purging away the rubbish, and condemning these corruptions and defections, in compliance with them, or confessing and forsaking them, as our fathers used to do: And the prelatical clergy, after all the evil they have done, and bitter fruits they have produced, are yet kept in many places, and like to continue, as a seminary and nursery of a corrupt ministry. As long as this rubbish stands, there can be little hope either of purity or stability in the superstructure.

In former reformations also, the advancement used to be progressive, beginning where the former reformation stopped, and going forward, after they had got removed what obstructed: But now the motion is retrograde, going as far back as that in 1592, missing many excellent steps of reformation attained after that in 1649. In former reformations, our worthy ancestors used to begin with renovation of the national covenants, and acknowledgements of the breaches thereof, which hitherto hath been neglected to the great grief of many.

It is also matter of lamentation to reflect, that in former reformations, though adversaries troubled the builders, and hired counsellours against them, to frustrate their purpose: Yet, being furnished and spirited of the Lord, for that generation-work, they never studied to please men, but to acquit themselves, as faithful servants of their princely Master Jesus Christ, in witnessing against all sins and corruptions of great and small impartially; and in acts of assembly, ordaining and recommending to all ministers, this faithfulness, in applying their doctrine to the sins of the time, under pain of censure: But now, though there was never greater freedom and encouragement for, and necessity of faithfulness, when the adversaries of Judah are seeking to build, but on design to mar the work, and many are too much inclining to join in affinity with the people of these abominations: yet it is sadly wanting and much desiderated among many ministers; who being long accustomed to fears, and constrained {564} silence, have not yet recovered their confidence and courage, to cry aloud against, and not to spare the iniquities of the time.

Though in former reformations, this church was for order and authority, beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army with banners; Yet now alas! the crown hath fallen from our heads, woe unto us that we have sinned. This holy and beautiful fabric hath been burnt up, with the fire of enemies fury, with the fire of our divisions, and with the fire of the Lord’s indignation, burning against us for our defections, whereby the Lord was provoked to forsake his house; and since his departure, there hath been nothing but disorder among his children and servants. The popish, prelatic and malignant party, have come in by force and fraud, and by the cedings of those, that should have stood in the gap, have broke down the carved work of our covenanted reformation, rescinding all the legal bulwarks of ecclesiastical constitutions, civil sanctions, and national covenants, wherewith it was fenced. Wherein, alas! they were too much encouraged by our faint resistance, and too universal involvement in the sin of submitting to, and countenancing of the intrusions of the prelatical party. At length, having set up these their ensigns for signs, in sign of complete victory, obtained over the servants and subjects of our exalted Prince, after they had invaded his kingdom and place, and made havock and slaughter of such as would not yield; they offered some tempting terms, whereupon they would suffer them to live in subjection to these usurpations, painted indeed with pretences of favours, but really, at least indirectly, requiring a recognizance of the usurper’s power, and a cessation from opposing the peaceable possession of their robberies. These and the like defections, on the one hand, together with many extravagancies on the other, have brought the godly into many confusions.

We did indeed demur to concur with and follow, and did think it our duty to withdraw from these ministers who promoted courses of defection after specified; and to adhere to those (though but few) who were more steadfast and faithful. When the case was so stated that we thought communion could not be kept by us with them, from whom we withdrew, without sin; while the very exercise of their ministry was so far depending upon, subordinate unto, complying with, modified and authorized by unlawful usurpations, that but joining would have inferred, at least in our conscience, a submission to, symbolizing with, and approving of their offensive yieldings to these encroachments. Yet we never thought this a schism: Therefore,

That this happy and desirable union, may be holy and comfortable, in a way that may procure, and secure our union and communion with the Lord: And, considering in all the periods of this church, from the first reformation, a witness hath never been wanting, against the same, or equivalent corruptions, that have offended us: And no method can be more adapted for recovering and restoring union, than that which was used for preserving it: And that having aimed hitherto, to offer and keep up our mite of a testimony against the same: if now, under the convictions of its remaining {565} righteousness, we shall pass from it: and so seem to condemn what we approved before, and approve what we condemned before, it will leave an undeliable reproach, not only on ourselves, but on our contendings and sufferings.

We earnestly desire, Right Reverend, you would be pleased to condescend to us, in some things, that we humbly conceive, are very needful, just to be sought, and easy to be granted. We know and are confident, your zeal for truth and peace, will suggest the same means and measures, for obtaining this end, and will urge you to take notice of the same things, we desire, without our advertisement: Nor do we take upon us to prescribe the methods, terms, or conditions, necessary for composing these unhappy differences, and restoring the holy and happy union in the Lord; but we think, that word and works of God this day, point at these which we crave leave in the bowels of Christ, to remonstrate unto your serious consideration:

I. That to the end the causes of our divisions, the anger of the Lord as the holy cause, and our mutual offences, as the sinful cause, may be removed, that the effect may cease, a mutual, impartial, and accurate search and trial may be made into our ways, to find out, and remember from whence we are fallen, and discover our manifold and manifest defections, from the right ways of the Lord; that the great wrongs and indignities done to our great Head and King by enemies’ encroachments on his prerogatives, and his kingdom’s liberties, and our compliances therewith, on the one hand, and on the other, may not be past in oblivion, but diligently inquired into; and what accession to them, or participation with them, all of us have been involved in, these thirty years bygone: Particularly that it be laid to heart, what indignity to the Lord Jesus, and injury to his church, was done by the introduction of abjured, diocesan and erastian prelacy, and the several degrees of compliance therewith; as ministers’ leaving their pastoral charge, at the command of the magistrate, and laying aside the exercise of their ministry, giving way unto, and not testifying against the intrusions of prelatic curates: Particularly owning and submitting to their ministry, and receiving ordinances dispensed by them, and by counsel and example, encouraging others to do the like; which we cannot but plead and protest against, as sinful and scandalous:

1. Because they were, and are manifest intruders, not entering in at the door, in the way and order of Christ, and not having, yea despising and renouncing a call from the people, and ordination by the presbytery, and having no other external call, authority, or right to officiate in this church, as its proper pastors, but the collation of bishops, and presentation of patrons, who are none of Christ’s officers, and forfeiting and foregoing any other right, that any of them formerly could pretend to, by palpable defection to the enemies of this church. {566}

2. Because both in principle and profession, and in the way of their entry unto their pastoral charge, they were, and are erastian, deriving their power from, and subjecting it in its exercise to another head than Christ, the magistrate’s supremacy, by which only they were authorized, without Christ’s warrant, or the church’s consent.

3. Because they were and are schismatics, who causes divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine of this church, breaking her union and order, going out themselves from the fellowship of this church, and leading people away from her vowed reformation; yea, who violently thrust out, and persecuted her faithful pastors and children, for adhering to that reformation, which they designed to raze and ruin.

4. Because they were, and are perjured covenant-breakers, avowedly disowning our covenants, and stated in opposition to that reformation, which is therein sworn to be maintained.

5. Because they were, and are in several points erroneous, in their doctrine, many of them tainted with the leaven of popery, Arminianism, and socinianism, and all of them heterodox, in the point of the magistrate’s power in church matters, in the matter of oaths, and in condemning the work of our reformation, and covenants; seducing thereby their hearers, and both positively by these doctrines, and privatively by with-holding other necessary instructions and warnings, murdering their souls.

6. Because they were, and are, upon all these accounts, scandalous, and the object of the church’s censure: And though through the iniquity of the times, their deserved censure hitherto hath not been inflicted, yet they stand upon the matter convict, by clear scripture-grounds, and by the standing acts, and judicial decision of this church, in her supreme judicatories.

7. Because this hearing and submitting to them, was required as a badge, test, and evidence of due acknowledgement of, and hearty compliance with erastianism and prelacy, or his majesty’s government ecclesiastic, Act parl. I. Charl. II. July 10th, 1663, which made it a case of confession to withstand it.

8. Because, by our covenants, we are obliged to stand at a distance, from such courses of defection, and to extirpate them, yet, in contradiction hereunto, we were commanded by the rescinders of the covenants, to hear the prelatic curates, as a badge of our yielding to the rescinding of the covenants.

9. Because this course was offensive and stumbling, both in hardening those that complied with prelacy, and weakening the hands of those that opposed it, and inferred a condemning of their sufferings upon this head. Especially,

10. When communion with them was so stated, that therein was not only a case of controversy among the godly, in which always abstinence is the surest side, not only is the judgment of many a case of confession, which it is always dangerous to contradict and condemn, but undeniably a case of competition, between the true church of Scotland, her ministers and professors, owning and adhering to her holy establishments, claiming a divine right to their offices and privileges, contending for the church’s reformation; and a schismatical party, setting up a new church, in a new order, under a new head, {567} robbing them of their offices and privileges, and overturning the reformation.

II. We must presume to plead also, That inquiry be made into the heinous and heaven-daring affront done to the holiness of God, in the horrid violation of our holy covenants, national and solemn league; not only how the popish, prelatical, and malignant party, have broken them, enacted the breaches of them by law, burnt them and endeavoured to bury them, by making it a capital crime to own their obligation, and by bringing in and substituting in their room, conscience-ensnaring anti-covenants, oaths, bonds, and engagements renouncing the former, and obliging to courses contradictory thereunto: But that it may be considered, how many ways ministers and professors, in this time of tentation and tribulation, have been guilty of breach of these holy covenants; particularly by consenting unto, subscribing, swearing, and taking any of the new multiplied, mischievously contrived, capriciously conceived, and tyrannically imposed oaths, tests, or bonds, in matters of religion, since the overturning of the covenanted reformation and establishment of prelacy; and by persuading people to take them, and forbearing a necessary warning of the danger of them, and leaving people in the dark to determine themselves, in the midst of these snares. All which we plead and protest against, as sinful and scandalous:
1. Because all of them did infer, import, and imply a sinful unitive conjunction, incorporation, association, and confederacy with the people of these abominations, that were promoting a course of apostacy from God.

2. Because all of them were incapable of qualifications required in sacred engagements, to be taken in truth, righteousness, and judgment.

3. Because all of them, in the sense of the imposers, interpreted by their acts and actings, were condemnatory of, and contradictory unto the covenants, and some part of the covenanted reformation.

4. Because by the ancient acts of assembly, all public oaths imposed by the malignant party, without consent of the church, are condemned, July 28, 1648. Ante merid. sess. 18. and sess. 26, those ministers are ordained to be censured, who subscribe any bonds, or take any oaths not approven by the General Assembly; or by their counsel, countenance, and approbation, make themselves accessory to the taking of such bonds and oaths by others.

III. In like manner, we dare not forbear to cry and crave, That it may be considered, what wrongs Christ hath received from the Erastian and Antichristian usurpations of the supremacy, encroaching upon the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ, his incommunicable Headship and Kingship, as Mediator, giving to a man a magisterial, and Architectonic power, to alter and innovate, authorize and exauctorate, allow or restrain, and dispose of the government and governors of the church, according to his pleasure; invading the liberties of the gospel church, introducing a civil dominion upon her government, contrary to its nature, being only a ministerial stewardship, distinct from the civil government, in its nature, causes, ends, officers, and actings; and giving to the magistrate the power of the keys, without and against Christ’s donation and authority, even the {568} dogmatic, critic, and diatactic decisive suffrage and power in causes ecclesiastic, which Christ hath entrusted to the church representative; and denying to the church the exercise of these keys and powers, without the magistrate’s warrant and indulgence. We crave also, That it may be inquired into, how far this encroachment hath been connived at, submitted unto, complied with, homologate, strengthened, and established, by receiving and accepting, without consent of the church, yea against the express dissent and testimony of some faithful ministers, to the contrary, the indulgences anno 1669, and 1679; and by the silence of others, not witnessing against the same, and others censuring the faithful for discovering the sinfulness thereof.—Which we remonstrate upon these grounds, complexly considered:
1. Because, as the contrivance and end of the grant thereof was to advance and establish the supremacy; to engage presbyterians, either to cooperate towards the settling and strengthening thereof, or to surcease from opposing the peaceable possession of the granter’s usurpation, and to extort from them, at least an indirect recognizance of acknowledged subordination in ministerial exercises, to his usurped power, in a way which would be best acquiesced in; to suppress the preaching and propagation of the gospel in persecuted meetings in fields and houses, so necessary at that time; and to divide, and increase differences and animosities among presbyterians, by insinuating upon these called the more moderate, to commend the indulger his clemency, while other non-conformists, adhering to interdicted duties, were justly complaining of the effects of his severity. And as the woeful effects of it, strengthening the supremacy, weakening the hands of those that witnessed against it, extinguishing zeal, and increasing many divisions, did correspond with these wretched designs; so these could not be counteracted, but very much strengthened and promoted, by the acceptance of the indulgence, which, in its own nature, was so palpably subservient thereto, even though there had been a testimony against these designs and ends, yet when the means adapted to these ends, were complied with, it was rendered irrite, and contra factum.

2. Because as the supremacy received much strength and increment from the indulgence, so reciprocally it had its rise, spring, conveyance, and subsistence from the supremacy, from which it flowed, upon which it stood, and by which at length it was removed. And in the grant and conveyance of the indulgence, all the power of the supremacy was arrogate, asserted, and exerted, in first taking away the power of the keys from Christ’s stewards, and then restoring only one of them to some few, with restrictions bounding, and instructions {569} regulating them in the exercise of that. The acceptance whereof, so clogged with these complex circumstances, without a clear and distinct testimony, in that case of confession, hath at least a great appearance (which should have been abstained from) of a conniving at, submitting unto, complying with, and homologating of that Erastian usurpation.

3. Because as it was interpreted to be accepted in the same terms wherein it was granted, without a testimony against the supremacy, so the entry of those ministers to their churches, by this indulgence, was prejudicial to the church’s privileges: Some of them being fixed in particular churches, whereunto they had no peculiar pastoral relation before, and some transplanted from one church to another, without the interposition of any ecclesiastic presbyterial authority, without the free and orderly call of the people; being in many respects prelimited; and in the way of patronages, at the council’s pleasure and order: And those that were restored to their own churches, being there admitted, not by virtue of their old right and claim of an undissolved relation, but by virtue of a new holding of the indulgence.

4. Because the embracing thereof, and the continuing therein, was a faint yielding to prevailing Erastianism, and a course of defection from former integrity of ministerial freedom and faithfulness, in which the servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ were famous and eminent in former times, who for writing, preaching, and protesting against the ecclesiastic supremacy in the magistrate, and all Erastian courses, did bear the cross of Christ, with much steadfastness; yea, a receding from, and foregoing of a very material part of the cause and testimony of the church of Scotland, which, till then, did constantly wrestle against such encroachments: And in this respect scandalous, because hardening to Erastian enemies, stumbling to many friends, and offensive to posterity.

5. Because it is contradictory to our covenants, to receive indulgences, contrived and conferred, on purpose, to divide (by the terror of persecution on the one hand, and the persuasion of this pretended liberty, taking off the legal restraint on the other) ministers and people from the cause and testimony of the church of Scotland, against the supremacy, and from their former blessed conjunction therein, and to induce them to make defection to that party, that were advancing Erastianism. And it is expressly contradictory to the engagement to duties, anno 1648, where the obligation bears, "Because many of late have laboured to supplant the liberties of the kirk, we shall maintain and defend the kirk of Scotland, in all her liberties and privileges, against all who shall oppose or undermine the same, or encroach thereupon under any pretext whatsoever."

IV. Likewise, we plead and object, that a search may be made into, and a review taken of the late toleration, and addressing for it, and acceptance of it, complexly considered: The sinfulness whereof, we could not, and now cannot forbear to witness against.
1. Because as the design of the granter, and tendency of the grant itself, in its own nature, being the introduction of popery and slavery, could not in any probability be counteracted, but rather corroborated, {570} by this addressing for it, and accepting of it, even though there had been a testimony against the design thereof, as there was none, and could be none consistent with the continuance thereof; so being conveyed from absolute power, which all were required to obey without reserve, stopping, suspending, and disabling all the penal statutes against papists; thereby undermining all the legal bulwarks of our religion; The addressing for, and accepting of it, so conveyed, without a witness against this despotical encroachment, (yea, the very condition of enjoying the benefit of it, being exclusive of such a testimony, which might any way tend to the alienating of the people, from such a despotical government, in all its encroachments) did indirectly, at least, imply compliance with, if not the recognizance and acknowledgement of that usurped power, and the arbitrary exercise and effect of it in suspending the penal statutes.

2. Because it was extended, not only to prelacy, but to popery, quakerism, and all idolatry, blasphemy, and heresy, which was highly provoking to the Lord Jesus, and prejudicial to the peace and purity of his church; contrary to the scriptures of the old and new Testament; contrary to the confession of faith and catechisms, chap. 20. 1. and chap. 23. 3. Being placed also among the sins of the second command, in the larger catechism; contrary to the principles of the church of Scotland; being condemned, warned of, and witnessed against by acts of assembly, anno 1649,1 And by her faithful pastors preaching, writing, and protesting against such tolerations; (and sometimes even when papists were excluded, as that, against which the ministers of Fife and Perth did testify).2 And contrary to our covenants, wherein we are bound to preserve reformation, and uniformity in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, to extirpate popery, &c. to free our souls from the guilt of other men’s sins, defend our liberties; and consequently never to comply with a toleration, eversive of all these interests we are sworn to maintain, and productive of these things we are sworn to endeavour the extirpation of.

3. Because it was clogged with such conditions and limitations, as did exceedingly hamper the freedom of the ministry, being offered (in proclamations) and accepted (in addresses and obedience) with restrictions to persons who might preach, (allowing some, and discharging others, who had as good authority as they, to exercise their ministry) to places where they should preach (only where intimation was given of the name of the place, and of the preachers, to some of the lords of the council, &c.) and to the matter what, or at least what they might not preach, to wit, nothing that might have any tendency to alienate the hearts of the people from a popish and tyrannical government; and consequently nothing against the wickedness, or of the misery of tyranny; nothing against the toleration, and the open sins proclaimed therein, and wicked ends designed thereby; nothing against disabling the penal statutes, or for the obligations of them, and ties of national covenants strengthening them.3

4. Because of the manifold scandal of it, we cannot but witness against it, because so disgraceful to the Protestant religion and prejudicial {571} to the interest thereof. It was reproachful to our religion, sometimes established by law, then only tolerate, under the notion of an evil to be suffered: How confounding and consternating was this to all the reformed churches, that sometimes admired and envied Scotland’s establishments, now to see her so dispirited and deceived, as to accept and address for a toleration, without a testimony, whereby instead of all the laws and covenants securing her reformation, the only tenor and security for it she had now remaining, was, the arbitrary word of an absolute prince, whose principles obliged him to break it? What occasion of disdainful insulting, did it give to the prelatical party, then pleading for the nation’s laws, to observe presbyterians, acquiescing in that which suspended and stopped the penal statutes? Yea, what matter of gloriation and boasting was it to papists, to see presbyterians sleeping and succumbing, and not opposing, when at this opened gap, they were bringing in the Trojan horse of popery and slavery?

V. Moreover, with respect to some things, at present, which we account corruptions, and are offensive to many, we cannot forbear to remonstrate and plead, That consideration may be taken, of the sinfulness of the too universal defect and neglect of zeal and faithfulness, in receiving the buried national covenants, when now they seem to be laid aside, and many ministers forbear to preach plainly the obligation of them, and discover particularly the breaches of them, and to mention them in engagements which they require of parents, when they present their children in baptism, according to the continued custom of faithful ministers, these many years bygone: And it is stumbling to many, that in all addresses to king and parliament, the renewing of them hath not been desired. This we think very grievous,
1. Because in the scriptures, as we have many precepts, promises, and precedents for renewing them, and demonstrations of their perpetual, indissoluble obligation, being in their matter and form agreeable with the word of God; so we have many denunciations and certifications of unavoidable threatenings of all evils, national, personal, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, against forsaking or forgetting them.

2. Because as there is no other way to prevent the curse of the covenants, and this threatened wrath imminent upon the land, for breach of covenants, but to acknowledge the breaches of them, and engage again to the duties of them; so these omissions cannot consist with that faithfulness required of ministers in such a case.

3. Because it is a plain defection from first love, and former attainments of our fathers, who commenced all reformations with renovation of the covenants: And in their ecclesiastic constitutions, enjoined all ministers to preach up the covenants, and witness against all defections from them, and indifferency or lukewarmness to them; which also is a breach of covenant in itself.

VI. Hence, more particularly, we cannot but signify how much we and many others are offended, at the too general keeping silence at, or very ambiguous speaking against, and omitting the plain, impartial, doctrinal rebuking of such crying sins and scandals of the {572} times, as cannot be controverted among presbyterians: such as the imposing and taking many bonds and oaths, repugnant to the covenants and work of reformation; which many complied with to shift persecution, and many others to purchase preferments unto places of trust; the accession of nobles and rulers to the wicked establishments and framing mischiefs into laws in former times; the manifold involvements of great and small, in the guilt of persecution, by delating and informing against honest suffering people, riding with armed force to pursue and apprehend them; appearing under displayed banners for the defence of tyranny, on expeditions against them at Pentland, Bothwel bridge, &c. sitting in courts, juries, and assizes, to condemn them; putting them out of houses and tenements under them, because they would not comply with sinful impositions: And especially, the defiling of the land with blood, which hath yet a cry in the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth: All which the servants of the Lord are obliged, by the word of God, and the constitutions of this church, to cry against, and not to spare, and to reprove and rebuke in season and out of season.

VII. Finally, We must presume to lay open our own, and the general complaints through several corners of the land, of the sad slackness and remissness of discipline: The report fama clamosa whereof, at least, doth wound our ears and pierce our hearts, viz. That some who had gone a great length in the above mentioned compliances, even to the swearing the test itself, besides other wicked oaths, and to the prosecuting of the godly sundry ways, are admitted to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, and to present their children to baptism: And that others are admitted to the charge of elders, who had not only habitually complied with prelacy, and had borne the name of that office under that government, but had taken these scandalous forementioned oaths; yea, and that of late, some are admitted to the ministry, that constantly followed episcopacy, and were trained up to be curates, and were deeply involved in the foresaid compliances, without due trial of their past conversation, and requiring of their public profession of repentance, and resentment of these respective scandals; whereby the precious are not taken from the vile, and a little of that old leaven, may quickly leaven the whole lump, and offenders are not like thereby to be gained to repentance, but rather hardened in, and tempted to think little of these destroying sins.

We plead not here, that every one of the defects, or every degree of these offences should be, in the cause of this epidemic involvement, proceeded against by disciplinary censure; nor do we urge, that all chargeable with these offences above taxed, especially such as are in controversy, should be either personally rebuked in public, or obliged publicly to confess their own degree of the guilt of them; though it would give glory to God, and comfort to the church, and peace to their own consciences, for all to confess their offences, that have been most stumbling to the godly; so far as from the word of God, and known principles of this reformed church, they may be convinced. Nor do we propose, that the condemnation of every one of these steps of defection, that are questioned, should be so far {573} stretched quoad momentum rei, as either to be stated by us, as a ground of separation formerly, or now required as a necessary condition of communion; though still, we conceive the complication of them together, when they stood, was a ground that necessitated our withdrawing from many in the same circumstances.

We only desire, they may be so far inquired into, that what guilt is in them before the Lord, may be in some measure discovered, and the wrongs done to Christ thereby, may not be passed over in an act of oblivion: But as the right honourable the estates of parliament, have found and declared these acts and actings of the overturners of our reformation: and the mischiefs of prelacy, supremacy, and tyranny established by wicked laws, which were the foundations and fountains of all the offensive compliances above mentioned, to be grievances against the laws of the land; so the right reverend, the members of this venerable assembly, may find and declare, these wicked establishments and compliances supporting them, and defections flowing therefrom, to be sins against the laws of Christ; and so far as they can find iniquity in the foresaid offences, may provide by ecclesiastic constitutions for the future, that the like compliances with the like contrivances of usurping enemies, may never again be allowed, under pain of church censures, to prevent and preclude all fears of division, to be occasioned by the like defections, in time coming. And as we offer and promise, so far as we are, or may be convinced, to confess our offences, any manner of way that church-judicatories shall appoint; so, for the satisfaction of all concerned in the late differences, and removal of offences, given or taken, we desire and expect, that such failings in the above specified particulars, or others, be laid to heart by all sorts of ministers and preachers, as they are convinced of, or after search, may be discovered to them by this reverend assembly: And that these, among the sins of the land, be set down in order as causes of a public fast, upon some week day, through all the meetings of Presbyterians within this kingdom; and that the sins of the people be intermixed among these causes. Further,

As we humbly conceive, it would prove a very proper and promising expedient, for promoving, preserving, and propagating reformation; for settling and keeping order and union; for preventing and precluding innovation or corruptions; for discovering and discouraging apostates or schismatics, malignants or sectaries, and excluding them from access to do further hurt; so we hope, we shall be approven and seconded by many in this reverend Assembly, in craving the renewing of the covenants, either both the national and solemn league, with accommodations to our times, or one made up of both, with additions or explications, suiting our present case and day, with a solemn acknowledgement of the public breaches, and engagement to the duties of the covenants: Humbly moving, that none be forced to swear or subscribe the same, or so much as admitted to it, except they be such, as may be judged, in charity, to have a competent knowledge, and sense of the sins and duties thereof. {574}

In fine, Though we will not take upon us, to propose the time or the way of purging out the episcopal clergy, yet we cannot and dare not forbear, to plead and obtest that they may not be continued, nor kept in the churches whereinto they have intruded; nor re-admitted that are, or may be laid aside, until they give approvable evidence of their repentance, for their sinful conformity. (1.) Upon all these grounds, exhibited above, against hearing of them. (2.) Because former experience of the hurt received by the entertainment of the episcopal clergy, anno 1638, does now plead for their care to prevent it in time coming. (3.) Because the people under their ministry, have hitherto been, and are perishing in ignorance and irreligion; being either starved for want of faithful and spiritual instruction, or poisoned with false instruction; and therefore pity to them, and zeal to propagate the gospel, should prompt to all endeavours to purge them out. (4.) Because the settlement, purgation, and plantation of the church, will be exceedingly obstructed by the continuance of them that unsettled it, corrupted it, and pestered the Lord’s vineyard, with plants not of his planting, and whose leaven will be always in hazard to leaven the whole lump. (5.) Because, all of them are among these, whom the laws of Christ do oblige, the constitutions of this church do ordain, and the present civil sanctions for establishing church government do allow the church-representative, to try and purge out; being all of them either insufficient, or negligent, or erroneous, or scandalous, if these characters may be applied, or interpreted, according to scripture rules, or as the church hath extended them heretofore.

We are content that none of the curates be put out, but the insufficient and ignorant, if this be one part of the trial of their knowledge, to inquire not only into their gifts but their graces; if ignorance of conversion, regeneration, sanctification, and communion with God; both as to the doctrine of these benefits, and as to their own experience of them, so far as may be discovered by human judgment, be reputed insufficiency: We are content, none be put away but the negligent, if so be they that do not warn the wicked of their destroying sins, that feed themselves and not the flock, that do not strengthen the diseased, nor heal the sick, &c. that omit the pressing of necessary duties impartially on persons and families, and the censuring of scandals without respect of persons, be comprehended in that character: We are satisfied, none be removed but the erroneous; if they be judged to be such, who not only own points of popery, Arminianism, and Socinianism, but are unsound in their explanation of the kingly office of Christ, or the perfection of the scriptures, in the point of church-officers and government, in the matter of oaths, and of the magistrate’s power, and do maintain Erastianism, an exploded and abjured error in this church: And we seek no more but that all be removed who are scandalous, and none but they, if intruders, covenant-breakers, perjured subscribers of scandalous oaths and tests, schismatics and persecutors, be counted among the scandalous.

Some things are indeed extraordinary, which we here urge; but as extraordinary exigencies do force us, to move without a precedent; {575} so they furnish you a power, to make a precedent for the like cases thereafter: We confess also, it may seem precipitant to press all these things so hard, and so soon, in a bruckle time, before things be better settled; but we fear, if new delays be procured, till all things be fully settled, that the observing of wind and clouds shall hinder both sowing and reaping. But if, laying aside the plaisters, wherewith the wounds of our backslidings have been slightly covered rather than cured, you put to your hand to the healing of your breaches, in condescending to these our humble desires, you shall win the blessing of many souls, rent and racked with these divisions; you shall disburthen the land of many weights and woes, whereof it is weary; you shall send to all the neighbouring churches a pattern, transmit to posterity an example, and erect to all ages a monument of self-denying, zeal, and wisdom; a work to be paralleled with the glories of former times. If herein our hopes shall fail us, we shall not know whether to wish, we had died with our brethren, by the enemies hand, and had never seen this reviving in our bondage; for it will be a death to us, and not a reviving, if there be not a returning together to the Lord, searching and trying, and discovering the iniquities of our ways. But however, we intend not to separate from the church, but to maintain union and communion in truth and duty, with all the ministers and members of this church that do, and insofar as they do follow the institutions of Christ; and to approve ourselves, God assisting, as much for peace and concord, as ever we were suspected to be men of divisive principles; hoping it shall appear, we are seeking where he feedeth, and where he makes his flock to rest at noon, and are not as such, who turn aside by the flocks of his companions, but going forth by the footsteps of the flocks, beside the shepherds tents: Yet with this protested dissent from, and testimony against all the above mentioned corruptions, defections, and offensive courses, which obliged us to stand at a distance in times of deformation; that our present joining in these circumstances, when these are removed, may not infer, or be interpreted an approving of what we formerly condemned: and be free from all partaking in these defections, by consent, connivance, compliance, or communion therein. For which we humbly supplicate, that these our humble proposals may be recorded in the books of assembly.

ALEXANDER SHIELDS, &c.


Footnotes:

1. See the Solemn Testimony Against Toleration, and the present proceedings of the Sectaries and their Abettors, in England, in reference to Religion and Government by the Commissioners of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1649.

2. See the Testimony to the Truth of Jesus Christ by the Ministers of Fife and Perth, 1659.

3. See this matter concerning the unlawfulness of disabling & repealing the penal statutes against popery and idolatry handled in a work entitled, Four Grand Questions Proposed and Briefly Answered.